Johnson jumping back into Olympic coverage

Tony Johnson has built a reputation as one of New Zealand's premier rugby broadcasters since starting in radio in Blenheim in 1978. But the Re:Union host will be watching horses, not halfbacks, at the London Olympics. Struck with a case of laryngitis recently, he protected his voice and answered some of sports editor Hayden Meikle's questions via email.

Hayden Meikle: How long since you covered an Olympics?

Tony Johnson: It's my first Olympics since 1992, Barcelona, which I covered for Radio NZ and which remains one of the greatest experiences of my life.

I did track and field, the high point being calling the 100m final and getting them in finishing order (I'd been waking up in a cold sweat for months over that one).

I guess the low point was in the three-day event where I had to try to describe what was happening to Spinning Rhombus in the show jumping. But it was a great experience in a fantastic, vibrant city.

HM: Favourite Olympic memory overall?

TJ: Like everyone, it's still the sight of the 1972 rowing eight. I think our country drew itself up to its full height that day.

In more recent years, Sarah Ulmer's effort in winning the gold medal and breaking the world record in the women's pursuit stands out, plus the 1-2 finish in the triathlon in Athens.

HM: What will you be covering in London?

TJ: Three-day eventing, plus the other equestrian competitions.

HM: How different will that be from covering rugby?

TJ: Massive difference, but I am looking forward to the challenge. I used to cover the equestrian scene a lot when I was working in London, but that's a while ago.

Luckily, I'll have Andrew Scott, a top coach and former world champion team member, with me to talk about all the technical stuff like extended trots and rein backs.

HM: Are you expecting hassles with security in London?

TJ: Yes. You just have to accept it's part of the deal and be patient.

HM: Any tips for dark horses in the New Zealand team?

TJ: Dark horse, ha ha, that's funny. Wouldn't it be great if Mark Todd won his third gold?

But I'd be just as happy if Andrew Nicholson could bury the ghost of Spinning Rhombus once and for all.

HM: Who will handle Re:Union in your absence?

TJ: Charlie Stone, former Otago University student and occasional designer of Flying Nun record covers, is the producer. He'll make the call.

HM: Excited at the thought of rugby sevens joining the Olympics in 2016?

TJ: Oh yes. As Mike Nesmith once sang: I think I will travel to Rio. At least, I hope I will.


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